Washington, DC — Today, as a result of ongoing FOIA litigation, the US Department of State and Department of Homeland Security released four (4) documents to the newly formed transparency project Operation 45. Among the documents released Friday afternoon were records responsive to a November 1, 2016 letter from Senators Dianne Feinstein and Benjamin Cardin wherein the Senators call on then President Barack Obama to take immediate action against Russia for intrusions into the 2016 election, which was at the moment of their letter just over a week away.
Washington, DC — The nonprofit transparency organization Property of the People has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seeking the release of Donald J. Trump’s FBI file. The records requested, which cover a period from June 14, 1946 through June 15, 2015, will shed new light on already known investigations linking Trump to organized crime and will provide new information about Trump’s engagements with the bureau.
The effort is part of Property of the People’s Operation 45, a project dedicated to seeking transparency and accountability from the Trump administration. Ryan Shapiro, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) PhD candidate, and investigative reporter Jason Leopold, are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
It has been nearly three months since Property of the People first filed their request to the FBI seeking, among other things, as the request states: “[a]ny and all records mentioning or referring to the living person Donald John Trump.”
Though the FBI has previously released multiple documents with Trump’s name on them from the period stated to Shapiro and Leopold, they have improperly withheld records from this most recent request on the grounds that confirming the existence or non-existence of such records would infringe on Trump’s privacy. However, Operation 45 argues that the enormous public interest in obtaining this information clearly outweighs any embarrassment Trump might suffer. Additionally Trump’s own tweets acknowledging the FBI’s investigation of him negate any arguments that such records may not exist.
Moreover, the FBI has improperly withheld records from this request on the grounds that confirming the existence or non-existence of such records would “risk circumvention of Federal law enforcement efforts.” As stated in the complaint:
“Confirming that the FBI maintains files numbered 137-NY-19967 and 137-22152 would not disclose techniques, procedures, or guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions. Additionally, documents referencing file numbers 137-22152 and 137-NY-19967 in connection with the FBI’s contact with Mr. Trump are already available to the public. The disclosure of the mere existence or nonexistence of responsive records could not reasonably be expected to risk circumvention of the law. The FBI has not only unreasonably withheld the responsive records, but has unreasonably refused to even confirm the existence of responsive records.”
Plaintiff Shapiro asserts: “Given the profound gravity of the FBI’s past and ongoing investigations involving Donald J. Trump, the public interest in the release of the requested documents is immense. The American public absolutely deserves to know the full truth about the FBI’s historical and current operations involving the President.”
Property of the People vs. Department of Justice, was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The complaint can be read in it’s entirety HERE.
Property of the People is anew government transparency non-profit. Their project, Operation 45, dedicated to uncovering records relevant to the public interest concerning the current Presidential administration has been described by The Nation as “a ray of hope in these dark political times.” Operation 45 is on twitter @opfortyfive
Ryan Shapiro is the director of Operation 45 and the co-founder of Property of the People. Politico has called Shapiro “a FOIA guru at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” He is a historian of national security, the policing of dissent, and governmental transparency. Shapiro’s pathbreaking FOIA work has already led the FBI to declare his MIT dissertation research a threat to national security. Shapiro is on twitter @_rshapiro.
Jason Leopold is an award-winning Senior Investigative Reporter at Buzzfeed News, specializing in counterterrorism and human rights. Leopold has been called a “FOIA Terrorist” by federal employees for his aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act, which includes successfully suing the FBI to force changes to Bureau FOIA practices. Leopold is on twitter @JasonLeopold.
The Plaintiffs are represented by Washington, DC based FOIA specialist, Jeffrey Light.
Newly released documents reveal that the FBI investigated an extortion threat related to a menacing phone call made to bankruptcy attorney Kristopher Hansen on February 18, 2009, wherein a Trump associate using the name “Carmine” threatened Hansen’s wife and children. Redactions within FBI documents initially indicated that the bureau’s extortion investigation was ongoing as of March 9, 2017. However, in an unusual step the FBI backtracked and claimed that the redaction marking was inadvertent.
According to the Holmdel Township Police the threat specifically stated:
“My name is ‘Carmine’ I don’t know why you are fucking with Mr. Trump but if you keep fucking with Mr. Trump, we know where you live and we’re going to your house for your wife and kids.”
The threat came as Donald Trump’s casino business went into bankruptcy and Trump Entertainment Resorts had defaulted on payments owed to investors in excess of $1.25 billion. Kristopher Hansen, whose law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan represented the investors, received the threatening call on his blackberry from 212-399-5686, a number the FBI later identifies as a pay phone on 54th Street diagonally across from the Ed Sullivan Theater. Donald Trump and his entourage were at the Ed Sullivan Theater that day for a taping of the Tonight Show with David Letterman.
The first set of FBI documents (1 & 2) were produced in March as a result of a FOIA lawsuit filed by BuzzFeed News Senior Investigative journalist Jason Leopold, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD candidate and Harvard Klein Center for Internet & Society research affiliate, Ryan Shapiro. Shapiro’s effort is part of #Operation45, a constellation of FOIA lawsuits demanding accountability and transparency from the Trump administration.
“Donald Trump has long been in bed with gangsters and thugs at home and abroad,” said Shapiro. “He has also long sought to intimidate and silence those who seek to hold him to his obligations and to account. As a private citizen, this contempt for basic decency is dangerous. As President of the United States, it could prove catastrophic.”